About Delta flight #15 and the 9/11 disaster.

It is 14 years since 9/11, and here is a wonderful story about that
terrible day.

Jerry Brown on Delta Flight 15… (true story)

Here is an amazing story from a flight attendant on Delta Flight
15, written following 9-11:

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out
of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic …

All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the
cockpit, immediately, to see the captain. As soon as I got there I
noticed that the crew had that “All Business” look on their faces.
The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta’s main
office in Atlanta and simply read, “All airways over the
Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic.
Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination.”

No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a
serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The
captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles away in
Gander, New Foundland.

He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic
controller and approval was granted immediately — no questions
asked. We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation
in approving our request.

While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another
message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist
activity in the New York area. A few minutes later word came in
about the hijackings.

We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air.
We told them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we
needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander, New Foundland, to
have it checked out. We promised to give more information after
landing in Gander … There was much grumbling among the
passengers, but that’s nothing new! Forty minutes later, we landed
in Gander . Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM! ….that’s 11:00 AM
EST.

There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all
over the world that had taken this detour on their way to the U.S.
After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following
announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all
these airplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we
have. The reality is that we are here for another reason.” Then he
went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in
the U.S. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief. The captain
informed passengers that Ground control in Gander told us to stay
put.

The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one
was allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on the ground was
allowed to come near any of the aircraft. Only airport police would
come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next
airplane. In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander
ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which
were U.S. commercial jets.

Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio
and for the first time we learned that airplanes were flown into
the World Trade Center in New York and into the Pentagon in DC.
People were trying to use their cell phones, but were unable to
connect due to a different cell system in Canada. Some did get
through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who
would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or
jammed.

Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World
Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking
had resulted in a crash. By now the passengers were emotionally and
physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone
stayed amazingly calm. We had only to look out the window at the 52
other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not the only ones
in this predicament.

We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the
planes one plane at a time. At 6 PM, Gander airport told us our
turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning. Passengers were
not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without
much noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on
the airplane. Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed,
water, and lavatory servicing. And they were true to their word.
Fortunately we had no medical situations to worry about. We did
have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. We took
REALLY good care of her. The night passed without incident despite
the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.

About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses
showed up. We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal
where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to
register with the Red Cross. After that we (the crew) were
separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a small
hotel. We had no idea where our passengers were going. We learned
from the Red Cross the town of Gander has a population of 10,400
people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from
all the airplanes that were forced into Gander ! We were told to
just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the U.S.
airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while.

We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after
getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it all
started. Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found
that the people of Gander were extremely friendly. They started
calling us the “plane people.” We enjoyed their hospitality,
explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time.

Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander
airport. Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers
and found out what they had been doing for the past two days. What
we found out was incredible.

Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75
Kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls,
lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all
these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded
travelers. Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags
and pillows set up.

ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time
to take care of the “guests.” Our 218 passengers ended up in a town
called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were
put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a women-only
facility, that was arranged. Families were kept together. All the
elderly passengers were taken to private homes. Remember that young
pregnant lady? She was put up in a private home right across the
street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on
call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for
the duration.

Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were
available to everyone once a day. During the day, passengers were
offered “Excursion” trips. Some people went on boat cruises of the
lakes and harbors. Some went for hikes in the local forests. Local
bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.

Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools.
People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered
wonderful meals. Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats
to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft. In
other words, every single need was met for those stranded
travelers.

Passengers were crying while telling us these stories. Finally,
when they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were
delivered to the airport right on time and without a single
passenger missing or late. The local Red Cross had all the
information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and
knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were
leaving. They coordinated everything beautifully.

It was absolutely incredible. When passengers came on board, it was
like they had been on a cruise. Everyone knew each other by name.
They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other
with who had the better time. Our flight back to Atlanta looked
like a chartered party flight. The crew just stayed out of their
way. It was mind-boggling. Passengers had totally bonded and were
calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers,
addresses, and email addresses.

And then a very unusual thing happened.

One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an
announcement over the PA system. We never, ever allow that. But
this time was different. I said “of course” and handed him the
mike. He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had
just gone through in the last few days. He reminded them of the
hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers. He
continued by saying he would like to do something in return for the
good folks of Lewisporte.

“He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of
DELTA 15 (our flight number). The purpose of the trust fund is to
provide college scholarships for the high school students of
Lewisporte. He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow
travelers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the
amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more
than $14,000!

“The gentleman, a MD from Virginia , promised to match the
donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship.
He also said he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and
ask them to donate as well. As I write this account, the trust fund
is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in
college education.

“I just wanted to share this story because we need good stories
right now. It gives me a little bit of hope to know that some
people in a faraway place were kind to some strangers who literally
dropped in on them.

It reminds me how much good there is in the world. In spite of all
the rotten things we see going on in today’s life, this story
confirms there are still a lot of good people in the world and when
things get bad, they will come forward.

Blogger Barry: Thanks for your time. Hope you enjoyed. Please
use the comment and follow buttons.

Barry Blomkamp Nd. Bsc (UL)
Professional Public Speaker, Trainer and Corporate Entertainer,
Motivational speaker, Guest & Key note speaker, Seminar &
Conference speaker, Team Builder, Comedian, Master of Ceremonies,

For your Strategic Planning sessions, Management or Sales meetings,
Conferences and/or Seminars, Award functions, Year end parties,
Christmas parties,

Cape Town, South Africa.

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